Cricket: Lara's hopes take tumble

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Australia 303 & 89-2 West Indies 222

ENERGISED BY Glenn McGrath's pace as bowler and fielder, Australia wasted no time in rounding off the West Indies' first innings and earning a significant lead of 170 on the third day of the fourth and final Test here yesterday.

The tourists bowled out the West Indies out for 222 and, mid-way through the afternoon session, had made steady progress to 89 for 2, leaving them ample time to press for the victory they need to square the series 2-2 and retain the Frank Worrell Trophy they have jealously held since 1995.

On a pitch that has not changed its favouritism to the batsmen from the start, they had to guard against their second-innings collapse to 146 in Bridgetown a week ago that opened the way for the astonishing, one- wicket West Indies victory in the third Test.

Captain Brian Lara's obvious, stated but overly optimistic hope for the West Indies, starting the day on 197 for 6, was for his last four wickets to "bat through the first two sessions". Unfortunately they did not make it to halfway through the first.

McGrath, Australia's fastest and most penetrative bowler, plucked out Nehemiah Perry's off-stump with a perfectly pitched in-swinger in the third over of the day. In the next over, Curtly Ambrose's ambitious slog off Stuart MacGill's googly flew straight to Ricky Ponting, leaving Carl Hooper the responsibility of squeezing out as many runs as he could with only the fast bowlers, Corey Collymore and Courtney Walsh, to come.

McGrath again spoiled the plan. Seeking to retain the strike from Collymore, Hooper tried to convert a stroke to fine-leg off MacGill into two runs but, no longer as feline or as fast as he once was, found himself at least a foot short of his crease as McGrath's powerful, accurate return came over the stumps to wicketkeeper Ian Healy.

It was the 10th time in Tests that Hooper had been run out and it left McGrath with the formality of completing the innings with his third wicket - and his 27th in the series - as Walsh got his leg in front of middle stump to a straight ball.

The West Indies faced another difficult game of catch-up cricket. Almost three full days remained and, while they fought back from as deficit of 161 in the Barbados Test, such miracles are not common in Test cricket.

They claimed an early wicket when Greg Blewett, aiming across the line as he is inclined to do, was plainly lbw to Ambrose for seven. But they seemed prepared to play for time, Lara setting defensive fields and using Jimmy Adams' left-arm spin to a leg-stump line with heavy leg-side protection.

As Michael Slater and Justin Langer settled in, Lara was obliged to change the plan when wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs was hurt by a leg-side delivery from Adams, who himself donned the gloves. Soon after, Ambrose made a second breakthrough, clean bowling Slater, who had looked well-set on 44.

Third day; Australia won toss

AUSTRALIA - First Innings 303 (S R Waugh 72no, J L Langer 51; C E L Ambrose 5-94).

WEST INDIES - First Innings

(Overnight: 197 for 6)

C L Hooper run out 47

R D Jacobs lbw b MacGill 4

N O Perry b McGrath 6

C E L Ambrose c Ponting b MacGill 0

C D Collymore not out 11

C A Walsh lbw b McGrath 3

Extras (nb6) 6

Total (76.2 overs) 222

Fall (cont): 7-205 8-206 9-213.

Bowling: McGrath 27.2-9-64-3 (nb3); Dale 18-7-67-2 (nb2); Miller 17-5- 39-2 (nb1); MacGill 14-3-52-2.

AUSTRALIA - Second Innings

G S Blewett lbw b Ambrose 7

M J Slater b Ambrose 44

J L Langer not 25

M E Waugh not out 12

Extras (w1, nb1) 2

Total (for 2, 41 overs) 89

Fall: 1-15, 2-77.

To bat: *S R Waugh, R T Ponting, I A Healy, A C Dale, C R Miller, S C G MacGill, G D McGrath.

Bowling: Ambrose 9-3-12-1; Walsh 10-3-23-1 (nb1); Hooper 8.4.-1-20-0 (1w); Adams 4.2-2-7-0; Collymore 9-0-28-0.

Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and D L Orchard SA).